Talk about socialism
Our recent general election campaign in Vauxhall gave us the chance to talk to more people than usual. There was a well-attended hustings meeting at which our candidate and five of the others put their party’s case and answered questions from the audience. On most days we had a literature stall outside our Head Office where we handed out leaflets and spoke to passers-by. We also went to other busy spots such as Brixton and outside tube stations. Sixty thousand copies of the candidate’s election address were distributed free by Royal Mail.
If we can be said to have had a slogan for our campaign it was “Vote for yourself – for a change!” Of course it takes more than a slogan to persuade people to change their minds. Capitalism teaches consumers to buy brands of political parties like they buy soap powder. So our refreshing message was that our candidate wasn’t going to do anything for them. If they wanted to have their problems solved they would have to do it for themselves.
We had less than two thousand pounds to finance our attempt to increase support for socialism. The supporters of capitalism have countless millions to convince us that theirs is the only game in town. You don’t have to be an active supporter of capitalism – or even know what it is – to allow it to go on. Passive, resigned, unthinking acceptance will do nicely.
Anti-capitalism may be a start, but it’s certainly not a finish. Real change means we have to be consciously working for something, not simply against something. So we talk to people about socialism and invite them to tell us whether they think it would mean a better life and society than we have now.
Today things are produced only if someone can see a profit in doing so – no profit, no product. Today there are labour markets: we have to find a job to get money or rely on a meagre state handout – or starve. We are told we must support a hugely wasteful and destructive war industry (“defence”) to kill or maim men, women and children in other countries with whom we have no quarrel.
What we said in one of our leaflets applies not just at elections but also between elections. We need a new way of running society based on:
1 The common ownership of all resources by the whole community, not just a rich minority.
2 Democratic control of the community by everyone, without distinction of age, race or sex, instead of rule by unelected company directors or state bureaucrats.
3 Production purely to meet people’s needs, not profit.
4 Free and equal access to all goods and services – an end to the market and to money.
No one we spoke to thought that what we were proposing is undesirable, not a good idea, worse than what we have now. Instead we were told it had been tried and didn’t work, or that for some reason it would never work. That reason usually turned out to be some variant of our old friend “human nature”. People are “naturally” lazy – if they can get away with not working they will do so. People are “naturally” greedy – if they can have things without paying for them they will grab the lot. People are “naturally” aggressive – without the punitive sanctions of law and order there will be chaos.
Funny how all these nasty features of a supposedly unalterable human nature always apply to other people. When challenged, the amateur experts on human nature never admit to showing those features themselves.
Most work in capitalism is unpleasant or boring because it is in the service of making money rather than something useful. Despite being pitted against each other for jobs generously “provided” by employers, workers do co-operate – nothing would be produced if they didn’t. It isn’t that the world’s poor are greedy – considering the plenty that technology and human ingenuity are capable of producing, they aren’t greedy enough!
There is a saying that talk is cheap, and in a sense it is. It costs nothing to talk yourself out of supporting capitalism and into helping to build a practical socialist alternative. And it costs nothing to talk others into following your excellent example.
The result of the election in Vauxhall was: Hoey (Lab) 19,744; Anglin (LD) 9,767; Heckels (Con) 5,405; Summers (Green) 1,705; McWhirter (UKIP) 271; Lambert (Socialist) 240; Polenceus (English Democrat) 221.
We also stood a candidate in the county council elections held the same day, in the Deneside ward in Durham, where the result was: Nugent (Lab) 1921; Nicholson (Con) 361; Colborn (Socialist) 288.